Thursday, June 1, 2006
The Cessna G1000 Skyhawk
The best-selling airplane of all time gets more sophisticated
Since the demise of the Cessna 152 in 1986, the Skyhawk has emerged as perhaps the preeminent general aviation trainer on the market. It may be ideal for that role, because it’s one of the world’s most forgiving airplanes, but until recently, no one considered it a technologically sophisticated airplane.
“Open the door, however, and you can see plenty of improvements,” commented Jessica. “I first noticed the shoulder harness airbags in the cockpit, a reassuring feature, and I understand they’re standard equipment on all Skyhawks. The airplane’s full-flap stall speed is below 50 knots, and airbags can protect car drivers at that speed, so there’s no reason they can’t do the same for pilots. The straps of the harness itself were comfortable, too, a welcome change from the older airplanes.”
In fact, Cessna improved the interiors on its 2006 models with a softer, lighter and higher-grade leather, in addition to new carpeting and side walls. The company also made some significant changes to interior lighting on the entire single-engine line. Overhead panel and pedestal lights were improved to provide better illumination, especially for the flap control and power quadrant.
The 2006 model’s takeoff performance was similar to that of Jessica’s trainer. The writer/photographer trains out of Santa Monica Airport near L.A.’s Wilshire District, so the ability to take off in a short distance is important. “Santa Monica is adjacent to Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Malibu, all noise-sensitive areas, and the Skyhawk SP is a reasonably good neighbor—fairly quiet in the first place, plus it gets off in less than 1,000 feet,” Jessica commented. “That usually lets it ascend to at least 500 feet before it gets anywhere near residential areas.”
Jessica was impressed by the electric trim on the Skyhawk’s yoke, primarily because she’s been obliged to use manual trim as a student pilot. “I kept forgetting and reaching for the trim wheel,” she laughed. “I appreciated the relocation of the headset jacks, too: they’re easy to find in plain view. On some of the older airplanes, they can be in rather awkward places—sometimes out of sight under the panel.”
Though this was her first experience with the G1000, the student pilot had a special appreciation for the Garmin system. “The glass panel definitely adds intrigue. Flying behind those two big screens is like being inside a life-size video game,” she commented. “The weather was near perfect for our flight, and I found myself looking at the multifunction display on the right far more than the primary flight display (PFD). I tried to use the rolling tapes on the PFD for altitude and airspeed, but perhaps predictably, I wound up scanning the backup, two-inch-round gauges instead. Pretty soon, however, I got used to looking at the PFD for all the information.
“The Garmin multifunction display was very impressive. It annunciated all the surrounding traffic through the Mode S Traffic Information Service (TIS) uplink and also provided me with good positional awareness with reference to the local landmarks,” said Jessica. “That’s especially important when flying in the Los Angeles Basin, where there’s so much special-use airspace. You can keep track of your position with reference to the borders of the Class B, C and D areas. Another nice feature is the auto-zoom that automatically reduces the scale and highlights the airport diagram as you get closer. Flying into Long Beach with its complicated pattern of 10 runways would have been a lot tougher without the G1000’s expansive display of the airport.”
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